New creative writing group for young people!

Aged between 16 and 19 and love to write?

Join us for a series of 8 fortnightly creative writing sessions led by poet Roshni Gallagher, winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2022 and author of the pamphlet Bird Cherry (2023). Our next session is at 4pm on Wednesday 28 September in Meeting Room Two at Central Library. These sessions are a gentle and encouraging space to grow and explore your writing practice.

Please email for further information. No booking needed. All abilities welcome – from keen writers to complete beginners. You’re invited to bring along a short piece of your writing to our first session but please note that this is optional.

Virtual creative writing workshops this autumn from Edinburgh’s award-winning Makar, Hannah Lavery

We are delighted to announce, “Our Stories”, an exciting new series of free creative writing workshops in conjunction with Hannah Lavery, Makar of the City of Edinburgh.

2022 is also Scotland’s “Year of Stories”, celebrating the rich literary heritage of the country and looking ahead to future generations of budding writers and storytellers.

These informal sessions are a unique opportunity for those wanting to learn how to run their own creative writing sessions in their communities. They will focus on ways to support group members in sharing their stories and celebrate the themes and ideas that matter to them.

The programme will culminate in a showcase event attended by the Makar along with invited guest poets in April 2023. During this event all participants will have the opportunity to display their work. 

The following three dates have been confirmed, however booking in advance is essential as attendance is limited to 15 people per workshop:

Group One – 14th September 22, 16th November 22, 15th February 23 at 11.30am to 12.30pm.

Group Two – 14th September 22, 16th November 22, 15th February 23 at 1.30pm to 2.30pm.

Makar Hannah Lavery said, “I am so pleased to be able to offer these workshops as part of my Makar-ship and I really hope to support groups across Edinburgh to explore creative writing as a way of telling their stories and the stories of the city, and I am especially looking forward to us all coming together next year to celebrate the writing”. 

Councillor Val Walker, Culture and Communities Convener said, “In this Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, I am delighted that this unique and exciting programme is taking place. ‘Our Stories’ reaffirms the capital’s status as a creative and literary centre.
I am confident that these workshops will provide positive knock-on effects in communities around our city as more of our citizens experience the magic of creative writing and storytelling”.

For more information and to book email or phone 07970 820352

The Poet-Tree of Stockbridge

Today, on National Poetry Day, we hand over to Janette Ayachi to tell us how she worked with pupils from Stockbridge Primary School to create a tree full of poetry in King George V Park at Eyre Place.

I’m Janette Ayachi, a poet (and performer) living in Stockbridge with my two daughters  and I engage in as many art projects, collaborations and literary events as possible alongside writing books.  My first poetry collection Hand Over Mouth Music won the 2019 Saltire Literary Award and I have been published extensively in journals and anthologies.  I also have a MSc in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and I have appeared on BBC radio and television.  More about me here: 

In preparation for National Poetry Day on October 7th I organised a poetry workshop for the two P5 classes of Stockbridge Primary School. The Stockbridge Library librarian, Carol Marr, was as helpful as they come, and as energetic as I am so we bonded immediately to smoothly bring the workshop into a fun existence.  We had originally planned to run it as an off-site school trip to George V Park, but as Carol had predicted, it rained, so we relocated to Stockbridge Library and Carol organised a line of plants in the performance space to bring nature indoors as the mud splashed up to the windows from the outside. 

As soon as the pupils arrived, and regimented through their wet jacket disrobe and current clean down at the door, they were eager to start (bless them, the school was located next door and still they were drenched!)  

Firstly, I explained what poetry was and they responded with what poetry meant to them, (most of them had written a poem before and some even knew them off by heart) and I was amazed at their levels of engagement and craft and practice.  The theme was ‘Choice’ which I reflected in the way that we always have the choice of words that we use. I asked how many of them spoke different languages, (almost half the class!) and as little hands went up my favourite answer was “I speak English and Scottish and Gibberish”.   

P5 poetry workshop with Janette Ayachi in action at Stockbridge Library

We covered how poetry is different from song lyrics because it is something more than to sing about, it is having something to voice, and that within the multidiversity of all human voices you can never really be dispossessed of what you are trying to express. It is always your ‘choice’ what to say and you can never really be wrong in the words you choose as long as they are respectful of each other. One child then raised his hand and said: 

“You can be wrong. If you add 2 + 2 and you write 5 that would be wrong!” to which I replied, “but that would be a wrong mathematical equation not a poem” however, with an afterthought from the challenge, I decided that his answer was a poem in itself entirely especially if he spelled out the numbers!

We imagined what it would be like in the park as planned, transporting ourselves to that environment to describe it, which in the end was ideal because using our imagination is how we are enchanted to write stories and poems. I also handed out a set of Nature Magic oracle cards, desperate to incorporate nature in that choice, with beautiful images of waterfalls to dolphins to fairies and volcanoes all with a meaningful word as a title. They held up their card individually and I explained the message and how that might connect to something they would like to express. They responded so well to the cards and intuitively started making synchronicities. 

We discussed vocabulary and where we can find words, that some people often tend to use the same words (out of habit, laziness or trend) but if you learn more words you can reflect your style, share a wider vocabulary and find new ways to say something. Some of the pupils had done some ‘found poetry’ exercises in the past isolating single words from a piece of text and making a poem out of those highlighted words in succession.  I showed them how we absorb and carry words everyday from music, books, things our parents share and friends say in the playground. That the words are always inside of us already.  To bring this to light, we engaged in a little meditation.

I asked the P5 pupils to ground into what I call our ‘inner sanctum’; a sanctuary is a safe space, a haven (which sounds like heaven) but is also a nature reserve, the place we build to protect nature and restore wildlife. I asked them to think of the roots of the trees outside reaching under the earth under their feet and to try to connect to that. In their mind’s eye, or third eye, I asked them to watch the stories, messages, downloads and inspiration that plays there on a giant private cinema screen. Then to pay attention to what they were tuning into, was it wisdom and knowledge or was it chatter and just noise? 

I read them a poem about my grandmother and the story of how she lost her eye rescuing my father from a well when he was little, then I read them my first ever poem that I wrote when I was at primary school to show them that poetry wasn’t difficult to create at any age. You become a writer by writing and as you grow you just get better at it.

We used rhythm, metre and rhyme to sculpt the words phonetically and transformed meaning with tricks of craft and technique to make language harmonious and conflicted, showing that the joining of opposites, or union of duality, was where the magic stems.

I was also fortunate enough to work with such confident and bright children, and able to put together a collaborative performance poem as they recited their poetry leaves to the class, or just myself on the other side of the bookshelves depending on how they wanted to share it. This can be found here: 

And some of the children loved it so much they asked if they could make two leaves to write two poems! The show and tell part was exquisite and I am so proud of the literary prowess and delivery of such work after our morning poetry workshop taking over a closed library on a rainy Monday morning. 

Images of The Poet-Tree installation where the pupils’ poetry leaves are suspended from a tree situated in George V park

Here the children have put their ideas; feelings, wishes, dreams, mantras and sketches into poetic words, phrases and stanzas, and by sharing their emotions and descriptions they have created a piece of collaborative work that truly can speak for us all.

Thank you so much to Carol Marr from Stockbridge Library, teachers Jill Fraser and Katherine Leyland and of course, the poets in the two P5 classes of Stockbridge Primary. 

And a huge thank you from us to Janette for such a wonderful workshop!

Green Pencil Award-winner 2020

We’re delighted to announce the winning entry for this year’s Green Pencil creative writing competition, is Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin from Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce.

Now sit back, listen and enjoy a specially recorded reading of Rosanna’s winning poem by poet, Michael Pederson.

Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin, read by Michael Pedersen

And in case you missed it, here’s a link to yesterday’s Green Pencil blog post where all four of our finalists’ brilliant nature writing are available to listen online.

Reading towards an anti-racist world

Today, our blog is handed over to Roshni who works in the Library Resource Management Team.

“I’m a Library Adviser for Edinburgh Libraries as well as a poet and a writer. I’m also a Woman of Colour and a member of an Edinburgh-based Women of Colour (WOC) Reading group. This past week there has been an increase in the discussion over how to combat racism in our communities. This comes in response to a history of anti-Black racism and racial injustice – most recently the murder of George Floyd in the US and the race hate attack on Belly Mujinga in the UK. Working in a library, I know that books are a great tool to educate and affect positive change in the world. Under lockdown I have found myself with more time to read and I have been making use of Edinburgh Libraries’ digital collection. I have had several people get in touch with me asking for book recommendations – so I have compiled a short list of anti-racist non-fiction and fiction books which I have personally enjoyed and found informative. All of these are available via the library and most are also currently available as an ebook or audiobook.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison writes beautifully and powerfully about the Black experience. Every sentence that Morrison writes is precise and packed with meaning. This book is a coming-of-age story following Macon Dead jr, AKA Milkman, who is the son of a wealthy Black family in 1930s America. In this novel Morrison deals with the themes of pain, escape, and forgiveness. It is a story about masculinity, family, and patriarchy. All of Toni Morrison’s books are worth reading – and this is one of her best.
Available as an audiobook

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Sukla
This is a collection of personal essays by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the UK. This is a good way to read about the racism that lurks in our homes and in our communities. In this collection there are moments of comedy, moments of grief, and moments of anger. All the essays in this collection are very moving. For example, the teacher and writer Darren Chetty discusses how his primary school aged students believed that the main characters in story books had to be white.
Available as an audiobook

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
This book addresses racism in Britain today and the reluctance of white people to discuss it. It’s a good starting point if you’re striving to learn more about racism at a systemic level. This book is primarily aimed at white readers and the title refers to Eddo-Lodge’s fatigue at having to continually explain racism. In the introduction she states that when she talks about race to white people, ‘You can see their eyes shut down and harden… It’s like they can no longer hear us’. This book has won the Jhalak prize and has received international acclaim.
(Available as an ebook and as an audiobook)

Surge by Jay Bernard
This is a collection of poetry that was written with the Grenfell tragedy at the heart of it. Bernard melds Britain’s past with its present, expressing what it means to be Black and British in the modern day. ‘Surge’ won the Ted Hughes award for new poetry.



Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
This is an essential collection of essays and speeches and includes her famous essay  ‘The  Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House.’ Lorde writes about the intersection between race, gender, and sexuality. Her collection ‘Your Silence Will Not Protect You’ is also available at branches in paperback. I found this collection formative in my personal understanding of racism – Lorde writes about the necessity to speak out against racism in all forms at all times.
Available as an ebook

How to be an antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
This is a highly informative read. Kendi dissects each way in which a person can be consciously and subconsciously racist. Kendi argues that no one can be neutral when it comes to racism – we can only ever be either anti-racist or racist. Kendi invites us to interrogate our own unconscious racial biases. Kendi also discusses quick changes we can make to the language we use to discuss racism. For example, he suggests using the more apt ‘racial abuse’ instead of ‘microaggression’.”

What libraries mean to me with Val McDermid

Crime writer Val McDermid is a perpetual favourite with Edinburgh Library borrowers. Her books, with their atmospheric covers and poetic titles, tell stories of crime, justice and retribution in Scotland. She has also written an updated Jane Austen novel, set during the Edinburgh Festival, Northanger Abbey, and picture book My Granny is a Pirate.

A long term champion of books and libraries, here McDermid tells us what libraries mean to her, and why the written word is what will ultimately carry us through.

Val McDermid, photograph by KT Bruce

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as a reader, and as a writer? Are the meanings different?
When I go in to the library with my borrower’s card, I feel like Little Jack Horner with his pudding and pie – I stick in my thumb and pull out a plum! There’s always a moment where I encounter something new, and that’s half of the pleasure of reading.

As a writer, libraries have been a huge part of learning my craft. Not just by experiencing the work of other writers and stealing their tricks, but also as a place for research. I started publishing back in the days before Google, when research meant physically searching reference sections, calling up books from the stacks and inter-library loans. And there are still times when only a library will do. Newspaper archives, for example, are a nightmare to search online. The indices of historical biographies lead to all sorts of interesting paths! So I still see them as a valuable resource.

What is your earliest library memory?
When I was a toddler in Kirkcaldy, my mum used to push me across our sprawling council estate to the Templehall Library where she would read me picture books and nursery rhymes.

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?
I’m frustrated because I’ve got an idea for something new and I need the National Library of Scotland’s archives to help me develop it.

For regular library users, I’d recommend discovering what digital resources your library offers – audio books, ebooks etc. Find an online book group that shares your tastes, or challenge yourself with one that doesn’t!

The hard thing is finding something to compensate for the social life of the library. These days, libraries offer so much more than access to books!

A lot of people are struggling to read books right now. They have time, but they find their attention span shattered by the strange and frightening situation we’re in. What are you reading at the moment? What books would you recommend to those struggling to read?
Even the First Minister, a devotee of fiction, is admitting to finding it a struggle right now. I’m doing a mix of old favourites and the new books that still keep arriving through my letter box. What always works when all else fails are short stories. You’ll find all sorts of treats here. Favourite authors often have collections of short stories, and I return to Ali Smith, Katherine Mansfield, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Isaac Asimov and PG Wodehouse regularly, among several others. And perhaps the perfect book for right now is James Robertson’s 365 – a story a day for a year, each one exactly 365 words long!

This question is from Bronwen who runs the Art and Design Library, and is connected to the question above. Is it better to read a challenging book or a comforting one at this time?
It’s a matter for personal choice. Read what you fancy, is my motto. And if a book hasn’t grabbed you by page 20, swap it for something that does! I’m enjoying a mix of comfort and challenge right now, and unusually for me, I’ve got a couple of books on the go at once. One of which is always either an old friend or a new book from an author I know I can trust!

Are you able to write at the moment? Would you recommend writing as a way to get through this time? What are some gentle easy writing exercises that people can give themselves at this time?
I am writing – this is the time of year when I always write the current book. But I am making slower progress than usual. It’s harder to concentrate for long periods, I find. At this time of year, I do very few events normally so I can concentrate on writing. But paradoxically, this year I have had more calls on my time than ever before!

Most of us are taking advantage of the daily outside exercise where we can. I find I’m noticing things I’d not picked up on before. A writing exercise I’d suggest is composing a few paragraphs – or a poem, if that’s what you prefer – about something you’ve noticed on your walk, run or bike ride. If you can’t get outdoors, spend some time looking out of the window, paying attention to what or who you see. Writing about something outside yourself offers more resources – and it can also be a useful way of reflecting your thoughts and feelings.

How can we connect, as librarians, borrowers, readers and writers when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement, or do we need more? How powerful is the written word right now?
Social media is doing a great job of making us feel connected, and of forming new connections. But it’s not a replacement for human company and contact. Screen time is also, strangely, more tiring than face-to-face encounters. However, making the most of what it can do will carry us through this. And when it’s all over, we will appreciate old – and new – friends so much more.

In the meantime, the written word can be our comfort and our companion.

With huge thanks to Val McDermid and to Hope our #stayathome interviewer from Central Lending Library.

What libraries mean to me with Claire Askew

In our second library Q & A session, we ask author Claire Askew what libraries mean to her. Claire’s first novel, All the Hidden Truths looks at what would happen if (God forbid) there was a Columbine style college shooting in Edinburgh. Her second novel, What You Pay For explores conflicts between family and duty, love and morality, and doing the right thing, when everything seems wrong. Both feature the same detective, DI Helen Birch.
Look out for the third book in the series, Cover Your Tracks, coming soon in August 2020.

Claire is also an award winning poet, a teacher and a witch. She lives in Edinburgh. She is currently working on her fourth novel and can be found on Twitter as @onenightstanzas 

Claire Askew

What do libraries (including Edinburgh City Libraries) mean to you as a reader, and as a writer? Are the meanings different?
I’ve been a library lover ever since I was a small child, when my mum would take me to the library most days (though she usually corrects me: I took her to the library, she had little choice in the matter!) But Edinburgh City Libraries will always be extra special to me, because I worked for a year as a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion in 2016/17 and was lucky enough to meet so many fantastic readers, locals, visitors, and library staff.

I worked mostly out of Craigmillar Library, but could sometimes be found in Portobello Library too. I’d always believed libraries were essential to communities, but that year’s placement really opened my eyes to just how vital library services are. In Craigmillar, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the library is at the heart of everything, for everyone aged 0 to 100+. It’s not just a place to access books: it’s Bookbug sessions and weekend breakfasts for kids and game club and knitting group and so much more besides.

What is your earliest library memory?
When I was little, my brother and I convinced my parents to get a puppy. Millie, the black Labrador, was adorable but completely un-trainable, it seemed. My mum borrowed a book from the library called “How to House Train Your Puppy.” I vividly remember having to go back to the library to apologise profusely and pay for a replacement: Millie had peed all over the book!

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?
I live in Stockbridge, and have been moping forlornly past the closed doors of Stockbridge Library on my daily walks. But I’m lucky: I don’t rely on the library to access the internet or to see friends – I know that some folk will be really, really missing those services! But I’m taking comfort in simple activities like re-reading old favourite books, writing in a journal, and knitting. I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to ‘use this time well,’ and I wish we could all just focus more on getting through this in whatever way feels best to each of us. It’s really hard when you’re missing out on essential parts of your life, but hang in there, be safe, and do what makes you feel happy.

A lot of people are struggling to read books right now. They have time, but they find their attention span shattered by the strange and frightening situation we’re in. What are you reading at the moment? What books would you recommend to those struggling to read?
I’m struggling to read, too, and I’m allowing myself to revert to ‘easier’ reads and ignoring my ‘to read’ pile! I’ve gone back to my favourite teen read, in fact: Soul Music by Terry Pratchett! I’ve read it so many times in the last twenty years that I know it practically off by heart, but it’s an old friend and feels very comforting right now. I know because we’ve all got lots more time it’s tempting to think ‘I ought to finally get round to reading War and Peace, or some other massive tome’ – but it’s probably a better idea to read something escapist and fun that doesn’t feel like a task!

Are you able to write at the moment? Would you recommend writing as a way to get through this time? What are some gentle easy writing exercises that people can give themselves at this time?
I’m writing a little, but only a little. I do have a novel I need to finish (the fourth in the DI Birch series,) but I’m going easy on myself. Even if I only write a sentence or two a day, that’s still progress in the right direction.

I’m taking a lot of comfort from writing a journal, too, though, and particularly from trying to make a daily gratitude list. At the end of every day I write down three things I’m grateful for.

Sometimes they’re big things like being grateful for having had another day of good health; sometimes they’re small things like being grateful I spotted a cute dog out of my window!

I’d really recommend it as an exercise – it helps me remember there are still good things in the world!

How can we connect, as librarians, borrowers, readers and writers when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement, or do we need more? How powerful is the written word right now?
Other than social media – which is seeing all sorts of exciting things happening at the moment, from Zoom poetry readings to online book clubs – it’s hard to know what else to do!

I have liked hearing what other people are reading, though, and I’ve wondered about the potential for mass read-alongs. There are mass watch-alongs of movies and Netflix shows happening online, where people all watch a movie at the same time and then chat about it afterwards. Could we do a slower version, with books, maybe?

With many thanks to Claire and to Hope our #stayathome interviewer from Central Lending Library.

What Libraries mean to me with Ever Dundas

Edinburgh Libraries does a Question and Answer session with local writer Ever Dundas, author of Goblin (published by Saraband).

Ever Dundas

What do libraries (including Edinburgh Libraries) mean to you as a reader, and as a writer? Are the meanings different?
I don’t earn much as a writer, which is how it is for many writers – we usually have to supplement our income with the full-time freelance hustle, or a full or part-time ‘day’ job, and fit writing around that. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do this as I have ME and fibromyalgia (I did have a part-time job, but had to give it up as I wasn’t coping and it was making me even more ill). Because of this, I can’t always afford to buy new books, so the library is an amazing resource. There’s something so very anti-capitalist about libraries (which is probably why they’re constantly under attack) – all these resources available to us for free.

It’s one of those rare buildings you can enter and know it doesn’t matter how much you earn. I’m able to get books to read for pleasure and books for research for my writing projects and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

As a writer, it’s an absolute joy to see my own book on the shelves in a building that means so much to me, and to know that people who might not earn much are able to access it. Also, I’m not sure if members of the public know about this, but there’s a scheme called Public Lending Right (PLR) where authors can register and they earn a few pence every time someone takes their book out, so you’re still helping authors financially via supporting your local library.

What is your earliest library memory?
The classroom library in my primary school. I remember picking up books by Nicholas Fisk (I was obsessed with space at the time, so I loved the Starstormers series). I also picked up A Box of Nothing by Peter Dickinson, which is still a firm favourite. If I could have skipped all lessons to sit in the corner reading, I would have.

Are you struggling to cope without a library? What advice would you give to those who love the library and can no longer go in?

Central Library

I badly miss the library. It was a real comfort to me. I enjoyed the short walk through the bustling streets (which are now very eerie), and entering that huge, beautiful building always made me happy. I also loved when Hope was on shift – before I got to know her a bit better and learned she’s a writer too, she’d always cheer me with her greetings. The library staff are a big part of what makes the library the welcoming place it is and I really appreciate their skills and expertise.

I’m trying to use the library closure as an opportunity to get through my massive to-read piles at home. For anyone who doesn’t have a massive to-read pile, you can still get ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and newspapers from the library, so it’s still a great resource. But I know a lot of people will be missing the physical library – it was a real haven.

A lot of people are struggling to read books right now. They have time, but they find their attention span shattered by the strange and frightening situation we’re in. What are you reading at the moment? What books would you recommend to those struggling to read?
I’m currently reading an academic book I got my paws on in the recent Palgrave sale – Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out, edited by Ruth Heholt and Melissa Edmundson. It has a chapter by Timothy C Baker that looks at Companion Animals in Contemporary Scottish Women’s Gothic Fiction, focussing on my novel Goblin, Elspeth Barker’s O Caledonia, and Alice Thompson’s The Falconer. I haven’t yet read Thompson’s book, but since reading Barker’s I’m evangelical about it and it’s a real shame it’s out of print – it’s not available as an ebook, but when the libraries reopen I highly recommend getting a hold of it.

Ever’s to-read pile

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Gothic Animals – especially the chapter on Patricia Highsmith and her snails (apparently she smuggled her pet snails in and out of the country in her bra, and she would take a bag of snails and a lettuce to social events – this makes me love her even more).

I’ve also been reading Planetarium, which is an utterly gorgeous book in the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series. I’ve been losing myself in it before going to bed and finding it very soothing. It’s funny how feeling insignificant in the context of the solar system can be so comforting.

If you’re struggling to read, short stories might be easier to concentrate on. Or comics/graphic novels (I highly recommend everything by Charles Burns and Emil Ferris’ My Favourite Thing Is Monsters). Or now might be the time to try an audiobook if you’ve never done so before.

Are you able to write at the moment? Would you recommend writing as a way to get through this time? What are some gentle easy writing exercises that people can give themselves at this time?
I’ve been struggling a bit, to be honest, but that’s partly because I’ve been having one fibro & ME flare-up after another this past month. It’s mostly the flu-like exhaustion rather than the chronic pain, and it can be incredibly frustrating as it’s hard to get things done. But I’m doing OK at the moment, and I’m enjoying this interview – it’s giving me some space to reflect.

I had planned to write a diary, but I’ve been a bit scuppered by flare-ups, and I’ve been using the rest of my time to try and get some work-related things done. But I think externalising your feelings in that way can be very therapeutic, so I recommend it if you’re feeling stressed by current events.

How can we connect, as librarians, borrowers, readers and writers when the library is closed? Can social media be a replacement, or do we need more? How powerful is the written word right now?
I think social media and blogs are useful ways of connecting, although I’m aware that some people won’t have computers or online access and that the physical presence of the library offered that to many. I think current events shows how important and necessary internet access is, and that it’s not some out-there socialist utopia to provide it to everyone.

As someone who is disabled, I’ve talked a lot about making the world (and the publishing industry in particular) more accessible, so it’s been both wonderful and bittersweet to see so many things move online, when disabled people have been pushing for this for so long. I hope, when we come out the other side of this, accessibility will be taken more seriously – it’s not niche. It’s a human right. It’s sad that it’s taken something like this for ableds to realise that. Things can’t go back to ‘normal’ after this. The status quo isn’t good enough.

So I do think blogs and social media are important. Many disabled people find it can be a real lifeline for them, and I generally have no time for simplistic anti-social media sentiments – it’s ableist.

I think the written word is incredibly important right now – in terms of political activism, but also for escapism. I don’t think anyone should ever feel guilty for needing some escapism in times like this – if it can help get you through, that’s what matters. The arts saved me many times throughout my life.

With huge thanks to Ever and to Hope our #stayathome interviewer from Central Lending Library.


Pentlands Book Festival 2019

Residents of the Pentlands communities are in for some book treats this Autumn!

This year’s Pentlands Book Festival happens in and around Book Week Scotland (November 18 – 25) in conjunction with Currie, Colinton and Balerno libraries.

Organised by and for the community, the festival brings an eclectic mix of events with something for everyone. From acclaimed Scots Makar Jackie Kay to the comedy and murderous thoughts of Denzil Meyrick and Craig Robertson. The popular scientific supper and local authors event are back, and we’ve visits to the School of Scottish Studies celebrating Hamish Henderson’s centenary and a historical walk along the Balerno Branch line with model railway display and exhibition. We’ve also two workshops – one for writing and one on book illustration.

Tickets are available from the website and the local libraries and it’s all free!
View the full fantastic line-up online at

Scots Makar Jackie Kay will be appearing at the Pentlands Book Festival

Poetry and creative writing with the Scottish Poetry Library

The Scottish Poetry Library are hosting a new poetry and creative writing workshop at Wester Hailes Library, running for four weeks on Wednesdays from 28 February to 21 March 2018, 11.30am – 1.00pm.

The free workshop, run in partnership with WHALE Arts, is part of the Scottish Poetry Library’s year long residency project in Wester Hailes. The residency also plans to include taster sessions with local community groups and partners and monthly poetry groups at WHALE Arts.

The workshop at the Library is suitable for all, with no writing experience necessary, and it is not essential to attend all four sessions.  For more information or to book your place contact Wester Hailes Library via email or phone 0131 529 5667 or contact Helena at WHALE Arts on 0131 458 3267/

A nourishing read!

Earlier this year the Scottish Book Trust asked people to put pen to paper and write down their memories and thoughts on the theme of ‘Nourish’. Whether it was about growing your own, howking tatties, creative cooking, sharing a poke of chips or a celebratory feast, they wanted to know what fueled your body and mind.

The result of this quest is a brilliant book of reminiscences and musings that is now available to download for free from our OverDrive ebook service. This book has been released as part of Book Week Scotland 2017. There’s a couple of submissions from well known foodies Dave Myers and Mary Contini, but a wealth of contributions from Scottish people from all walks of life, sharing with you their stories of food’s contribution to their family, childhood, community, travel experiences and self-discovery.

Download it today (best enjoyed with a nice cuppa and a dunkable biscuit!).


Our writer in residence

The Scottish Book Trust recently announced the 2017 winners of their New Writers Award. You may have seen this picture in the press or on social media. Standing front and centre is our very own, Simon Brown, Library Advisor at Fountainbridge Library!

Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award Winners 2017 - photograph by Rob McDougall

Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award Winners 2017 – photograph by Rob McDougall

We’re delighted for him and thought it only right to ask him to tell us a little bit more about the award, his writing and how this fits with working in the Library:

Simon Brown, New Writer Award Winner and Library Advisor at Fountainbridge

Simon Brown, New Writer Award Winner and Library Advisor at Fountainbridge – image by Rob McDougall

I’m still not sure this isn’t some sort of elaborate prank. Someone somewhere must’ve made a terrible mistake.

Even after having visited the lovely folks at the Scottish Book Trust and accepting a New Writers Award, it still doesn’t feel real somehow. It’s something I’ve dreamt about for years; I’m one step closer to the day when I shelve my own book – or, more likely, the day when I get an earful from a reader who hated it.

People always ask where you get your ideas from. My answer is easy: libraries. And I’m not talking about all the books on the shelves – which, as any library advisor will tell you, are just the tip of the iceberg – but the people who frequent our libraries, day in, day out.

We meet sad people, happy people, troubled people, lonely people. Sometimes these are the same person. We meet those with nothing and those with a lot. We meet refugees taking their first English classes; we meet old people who’ll talk your ear off if you’re not careful.

They all come to us. It’s impossible not to find even a little inspiration in that. I’m not just talking about writers here; we’re lucky enough to count painters, musicians, playwrights and actors among our staff. Edinburgh Libraries contain a tremendous amount of passion and creativity and perhaps we need to tap into that, now more than ever.

Page Flipper the penguin visits the Library

Central Library’s Dyslexia Chatterbooks Group meets on the last Tuesday of each month in the Central Children’s Library. page-flipper-2The following is an extract from a story created by the group at a recent meeting. The children started by putting their ideas together on a storyboard with the help of Library Advisor, Beth Cochrane. The original idea for the story started with a missing toy Penguin, who mysteriously turned up in the library one day…

When he entered Page Flipper found himself surrounded by lots and lots of books, so he decided to pick one up and read it. It was called ‘The Giant Penguin Book.’ But as he started to read, he started to grow! Once he had finished the book, he realised he was now a giant penguin!

After searching for more fun and interesting books, Page Flipper found himself a little bitpage-flipper-1 lost. He shouted for help, and along came a friendly librarian. With a big smile on her face she said: “Hello! My name’s Sophie, would you like to come to our Chatterbooks?” Page Flipper was happy to be invited so along he went, and made lots of new friends at Chatterbooks. So many new friends, in fact, that he decided he would live in the Library forever!

For more information about the Dyslexic Chatterbooks Group contact

#Artcore Young Writers Screenwriting Workshop

artcoreAnnouncing a really special event for young people! To mark the relaunch of the #artcore young writers’ group, they are holding a special event: a free, open screenwriting workshop with Marc Pye.  Marc has many years’ experience in writing for film and TV – amongst his television credits are EastEnders, Holby City, Hollyoaks, The Bill, Waterloo Road, Holby Blue, Doctors and River City.

Marc PyeMarc is coming to Portobello Library on Tuesday 27th September to deliver a workshop where he’ll be explaining what makes great writing for the screen – letting you see what a script looks like, and giving top tips on how to write one.

This workshop is open to absolutely anyone between the ages of 13 and 25.  You don’t need to have attended #artcore before, and yep – you don’t even need to have done any writing beforehand!  Whether you’ve always fancied the idea of writing a script but never tried, or whether you’ve got a box of finished scripts waiting under the bed… this workshop is for you.

Want to take part then go to Portobello Library at 6pm on Tuesday 27th September (the workshop will run until 7.30pm).

Crime writing without clichés

Do you write crime fiction, or have you always fancied trying your hand at a crime novel?  If so, we’d like to invite you to our creative writing workshop, designed to help you create brilliant crime plots… while avoiding typical crime clichés.
crime without cliches
The workshop will be run by writer Claire Askew, who’s also the Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion at Craigmillar Library.  Claire is a crime novelist whose debut novel-in-progress, Three Rivers, has been longlisted for the Peggy Chapman Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award, and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.
This workshop will include some hands-on writing exercises to get you started, along with practical advice to take away and apply to new projects or works-in-progress.
The workshop is free, AND because this is a World Book Night event, every attendee will receive a free copy of Sarah Hilary’s dark crime novel “Someone Else’s Skin” to take away with them at the end.


Green Pencil Award 2015 is here!

This year’s Green Pencil theme is ‘Food for Thought – Scotland’s food and drink’.

Vivian French and pupils from Carrick Knowe primary school.

Vivian French and pupils from Carrick Knowe primary school.

Author Vivian French helped launch Edinburgh City Libraries and Eco Schools 2015 annual creative writing competition, the Green Pencil Award, with P5 pupils from Carrick Knowe Primary School. Vivian inspired the class with some wonderful ideas for poetry and story writing around the subject of Scotland’s food and drink, getting them to think about the taste, texture and smell of different foods and describing them in different ways and then helping them create a recipe poem and an acrostic. Then it was out to the school’s vegetable gardens for photographs and a bit of gardening!

Vivian French and pupils from Carrick Knowe Primary School

The competition is open to all P4 to P7 pupils in Edinburgh schools and entries should be handed in to any of our libraries by Friday 9th October. Full details, resource ideas and an entry form can be found at

Free event: How to get published

As part of the rather wonderful Book Week Scotland programme we’ve got something sure to interest all you writers out there.

“How to get published” will feature a panel of expert editors, authors and publishers, courtesy of our friends at Publishing Scotland.

After a general discussion there will be a  question and answer session so you can pick our panel’s brains further.

It all takes place from 2pm on Saturday 30th November. Book online for this one while you can.

Five online tools for writers

Whether you’re an established novelist or humble blogger, here are five ways we can help you develop as a writer:

The Writer1. A free subscription to ‘The Writer’ magazine

“Each month The Writer is full of features you can use to improve your writing, including before-and-after examples of improved writing… practical solutions for writing problems… tips from famous authors and hands-on advice.”

And it’s free to download anyone with an Edinburgh library card – one of over 90 titles available from our Zinio emagazine service

2. A free copy of The Writers and Artist’s Yearbook

Contains a wealth of practical information on a huge range of topics including copyright, finance, submitting a manuscript and e-publishing, as well as being a comprehensive up-to-date directory of media contacts. One of over 100 free books available online via Know UK. Use your library card number to log on.

3. Contact details for local writers groups

Use Your Edinburgh, our community information database, to find out about writers’ groups in the city.

4. Free online access to Oxford Dictionaries Pro

Improve your vocabulary, grammar and punctuation. Contains the texts of New Hart’s Rules, The New Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors and Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage. Handy.

5. Learn from the experts

Get yourself along to one of our Edinburgh Reads series of authors’ talks, or watch the highlights on our YouTube channel.

Finally, bit late to the party with this one but Pixar writer Emma Coats’ 22 Basic Rules for storytelling are well worth a look.